What does Shanghai Cooperation Organisation membership mean for India?

June 08, 2017 04:18 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 05:02 pm IST

PM Narendra Modi interacting with officials after landing in Astana, where he will take part in the SCO Summit.

PM Narendra Modi interacting with officials after landing in Astana, where he will take part in the SCO Summit.

India will be admitted as a full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) during the ongoing summit of the regional grouping in Kazakhstan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Kazakhstan now, will attend the SCO summit and meet some foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. He is also scheduled to attend the inauguration of the Astana Expo with the theme of “Future Energy”.

What is the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)?

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is a Eurasian political, economic, and military organisation which was founded in Shanghai by the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO’s objectives arecentred around cooperation between member nations on security-related concerns, military cooperation, intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism. It is mainly aimed at military cooperation between the members and involves intelligence-sharing, counter-terrorism operations in Central Asia. The presence of China and India, the world’s most populous countries, would make the SCO the organisation with the largest population coverage.

Who are the permanent members of the SCO?

The SCO was founded by leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan in 2001. Uzbegistan joined the group later. India and Pakistan signed the memoranda for becoming a permanent member of the SCO in 2016. The inclusion of India and Pakistan into the SCO would mean the addition of another 1.45 billion people which would make the grouping cover around 40 per cent of the global population.

What does this mean for India?

Cooperation on counter-terrorism is expected to emerge as a major point of India’s exchange with SCO. India is expected to have a greater say in pushing for effective action in combating terrorism and on issues relating to security when it becomes a full member of the SCO, seen as a counterweight to NATO. India, one of the largest energy consuming countries in the world, is also likely to get greater access to major gas and oil exploration projects in Central Asia once it becomes part of the SCO. India’s entry into the China-dominated grouping is seen as a major milestone as it is expected to increase the group’s heft in regional geo-politics and trade negotiations besides giving it a pan-Asian hue. Experts say India’s inclusion may even bring down Beijing’s overarching influence over the SCO, reports PTI.

"I look forward to deepening India's association with the SCO which will help us in economic, connectivity and counter-terrorism cooperation, among other things," Modi said in his pre-departure statement. Modi said he looked forward to further progress in ties with SCO nations for "mutual betterment and growth of our countries and our people".

What is Pakistan’s role in the Astana summit?

Pakistan will also be admitted as a full member of the SCO along with India during the Astana summit. However, with tension brewing between the two countries, there is no meeting scheduled between Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Ahead of Mr. Modi’s visit to Astana, the External Affairs Ministry said that India is willing to join hands with Pakistan and China to combat terrorism. “We participate with many countries, including Pakistan, in the U.N. peacekeeping operations, and terrorism is a fight which is incumbent on all countries,” Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said. The comment is significant as full membership will require India to coordinate with member countries both on the trade front in the SCO headquarters in Beijing and at the Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) based in Tashkent.

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